Evgeni Rukavitsin: There is no way up without falling
Evgeni Rukavitsin – coach of Dmitri Aliyev and Makar Ignatov, spoke about the positive aspects of self-isolation; warned against the temptation to force preparation after quarantine; commented on changes in the value of the jumps and explained why the coaching profession is not a job, but calling.
by Olga Ermolina for fsrussia.ru dd. 22d May 2020
Evgeni Vladimirovich, the traditional question of recent weeks: how do you spend time on self-isolation? What can be learned from this situation?
Evgeni Rukavitsin: When quarantine began and the ice training stopped, we all isolated ourselves. I went to the country house. In order not to sit idle, took up household issues – cleaned, made something in the garage … Put everything in perfect order.
But the most important thing was to restore order in the head. During the season, everything happens very quickly – training, competitions, start after start. There is time for work, but there is no time left to think calmly about your work.
Now, in quarantine, such an opportunity has appeared: to analyze, plan something, create … There are ideas regarding new training methods, new exercises.
Of course all this time we were in touch with the guys, talking via video calls. As soon as the strict quarantine regime was over, the guys began to come to my country house together with our physical training coach Andrei Lushchikov and massage therapist Sergei Vinogradov.
We worked very fruitfully, of course, observing all the necessary sanitary requirements. We not only did physical training, but also talked a lot, which for me, as a coach, is important. We talked about figure skating, about the performance of elements, jumps, programs … Previously, there was not always enough time for such discussions.
In general, we trained, talked, walked, spent a lot of time in the fresh air. And I want to note, now my guys, Dima Aliev and Makar Ignatov are in good “fighting” shape, they have the optimal weight for starting the season, which play a significant role after such a break without trainings on the ice.
How do you plan to start training when quarantine will be canceled?
Evgeni Rukavitsin: We, and not only we, have faced such a situation for the first time. Dima Aliev had a quite big break, because Dima was preparing in the United States for the canceled world championship, and when he returned, he was in quarantine for two weeks, after which a self-isolation regime was announced throughout the country.
Of course, it’s hard to be in the apartment for so long and not be able to go outside. But, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. There was time to think.
Dima is not the first year in the national team. There were successful seasons, there were not very successful, like the season after the Olympics. But you need to look for positive aspects in everything. It happens that an athlete has a good season, a lot of different events after the end of the season or there are a lot of performances in shows in the off-season. The athlete does not have time to relax, and this may adversely affect subsequent competitions.
So the situations are different, but all of them must be considered calmly. No need to rush. Although I see from my athletes, their thirst to go on the ice as quickly as possible. But this “hungry” desire should be used wisely, because any rushing is fraught with the danger of being injured. You should not rush ahead at full speed, making up for lost time. It necessary to start training calmly, feel the ice, feel your condition, and only then go back to the usual mode of work.
The ISU technical committee changed the values of the jumps. What do you think on these decisions?
Evgeni Rukavitsin: My opinion: to introduce some changes in the middle of the Olympic cycle is not quite right and correct. Especially during the pandemic, when the sports world is in the “sleep mode”, including figure skating. To introduce such innovations now is not entirely justified. This is the first.
As for the specifics, I completely disagree with equalizing the value of a quad loop and a quad lutz. This is incomprehensible to me. I consider Lutz to be a more difficult element, without denying the complexity and nuances of the quad loop.
For the loop, you need to choose the optimal speed, feel the part of the blade very well while entering the jump. But at the same time, lutz, in my opinion, is more difficult, because this is the only jump that is performed with a “negative rotation” when the entry is made in one direction, and rotation around its axis in the another.
All the jumping elements didn’t come out of the blue, they “grew” out of the skating elements, in particular, the lutz appeared from the “Counter turn” element, and this is one of the most difficult step. And this was reflected in the base value of the lutz.
Besides, I see a danger that, due to quarantine in the new season, the adopted innovations will be interpreted in very different ways. It seems to me that they should have brought this issue up for discussion in our professional community first and only then make final decisions. As I understand it, there was no such discussion. We were simply confronted with a fact.
In your opinion, will the jumping content of programs change?
Evgeni Rukavitsin: I think the general trend will continue, and the leaders will not look back. It seems to me that top-level skaters perceive such things as a challenge. For them, this is an occasion to overcome themselves, to show that they can do better, more.
Although, of course, there will also be athletes who rely on simpler jumping content, gaining GOE due to high-quality performance of elements, skating, choreography … without risk.
But we have seen this in past years with the example of the American, Jason Brown. This skater takes with an interesting interpretation of spins, high arabesques and so on, while performing a simpler jumping content in his programs. But I think the trend of the top-level skaters will continue, they will continue to progress and complicate the programs.
How do you assess your students last season? What helped Dmitri Aliev to succeed, become the European Champion? What is Makar Ignatov missing so far, who also spent the senior season well?
Evgeni Rukavitsin: Speaking about Dima, the main thing is that he accepted his profession for real. I recall our training in Novogorsk before the European Championships in Graz. We had a clear work plan, but the training was very difficult. Perhaps, the tension after the Russian Nationals affected. In general, it was not easy. It happened that instead of 45 minutes of the planned training, we spent an hour and a half on ice.
But, despite the difficulties, psychologically Dima had a positive attitude. It was important for him to fully complete the planned amount of work. Failures in training did not break Aliev psychologically, did not knock him out of the rut. He understood: it means that we still have to work.
And this positive perception of reality, positive thinking played a key role. It doesn’t work out during training – no panic, we calmly work on. And when freshness, lightness appeared, then against the background of the work done, Dima felt inspired. Perhaps this was the secret of success in Graz.
You see, there is no way up without falling. And great willpower and intelligence are needed to get up to your feet and move on! Dima is really a strong person. He managed to overcome himself. We could only direct him, be near, not betraying his trust and believing in him. But he did the main internal work himself! The more difficult path we overcome, the stronger we become. We are capable of great feats! So I believe, Dima is capable of much!
And if we talk about Makar, then he simply lacked experience. But in general, Ignatov spent his first senior season well. Among the undoubted advantages of Makar, first of all, I would call his psychological stability. Makar has all the qualities for progress: excellent coordination, all quad jumps, with the exception of the quad axel, and, I repeat, psychological stability. Last season, Makar got the necessary experience, and this will certainly help him in the future.
There are different approaches to the training of skaters, in Russia and abroad. Do you think it is better to have a strong group of skaters or focus on working with one athlete?
Evgeni Rukavitsin: I prefer the group, because competition plays a crucial role. We are all people, and the competitive moment in training is always motivates us. But it is possible to train a large group only when you have a close-knit team of specialist colleagues. When the coach is alone, you know, no man is an island. And when there are many specialists, it is easier to carry out such work.
But working in a group does not cancel the individual approach to each athlete. When there are leaders in the group, high-level skaters, they require great attention. And the coach should have enough strength, attention to all aspects related to the training of such athletes. If the whole group is given the same tasks according to the template, this will not give anything, it won’t work. Two points can be distinguished here: healthy competition in the group and individual work with each athlete.
Is coaching is a profession or calling?
Evgeni Rukavitsin: For me, of course, it’s a calling. While the coach is a craftsman, I do not think that he will be able to show great results. But when you serve your cause, this is where the coaching path begins. When you just go to work, spent an hour at the rink and went about your business – this I can’t call coaching work. I’ll draw this parallel: great artists often say – I serve in the theater. And such service to the theater is the whole life. Also for me. I serve my cause. I do not work as a figure skating coach, but I serve figure skating, my profession.
Any profession, if a person is deeply devoted to it, involves self-development. Is there an exchange of information, knowledge, experience in your professional environment, because it often seems that in figure skating every man for himself.
Evgeni Rukavitsin: All coaches, all specialists who work with their athletes at the national team level, and many children’s coaches are fans of their business. And this doesn’t depend on the country they represent. Quite often during competitions, after competitions, in an informal atmosphere, we communicate, we talk a lot about figure skating.
Yes, we are all rivals on ice, but this does not mean that we don’t communicate with each other. On the contrary, it seems to me that there should be corporate solidarity, mutual support, support in the team, because if you act against your own, then you do not need enemies.
Working with students is a mutual process. You teach them and learn from them. What have your athletes taught you?
Evgeni Rukavitsin: It’s hard to answer right away. They probably taught me to trust them. Do not indicate what to do and demand unconditional execution, but listen and hear the opinions of your strong students so that they become full-fledged participants in the working process. I learned to interact with the guys, and even if I understand that at some point of the preparation they do wrong and it will lead to mistake, I let them make a mistake so they can make decisions themselves, because you can secure them at every step.
Leading athletes at certain points in their careers, and just in life, must learn to think and act independently, because it forms a personality, and in the future the training process becomes more interesting and fruitful.
Once one of the riders of the Moscow Hippodrome at the entrance to his stable attached a sign with the word “Die Geduld”, which means “patience” in German. What motto would you choose for yourself?
Evgeni Rukavitsin: I would put it this way: run to your dream, you can’t run – go, you can’t go – crawl, you can’t crawl – think about the dream. What do I mean? Despite everything, you should go to the chosen goal. Never give up and believe in yourself.
But for athletes it is very important that their coaches believe in them. Not because it is necessary. Just believed – absolutely and sincerely. Athletes feel it very much. And if an athlete feels support and faith, then he is ready to overcome any difficulties and obstacles, he will be obsessed with his desire to rise higher and higher.